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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Film of Substance
by Betty Jo Tucker

Living a lie in order to protect other people’s feelings may not be too smart, but sometimes it seems like the right thing to do. In Moonlight Mile, a young man lingers in the home of his accidentally murdered fiancée, even though the engaged couple recently agreed to call off their wedding. Because the bride-to-be’s parents know nothing about this break-up, the groom-to-be stays to help them through their bereavement. When he unexpectedly meets and falls for someone new, his masquerade becomes unbearable.

With a star-studded cast including Oscar-winners Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer), and Holly Hunter (The Piano), I expected something special from this unusual film. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sarandon and Hoffman play the grieving mom and dad with excruciating realism. Sarandon’s "JoJo" faces each day using sarcasm and a biting wit to hide her deep sorrow. Hoffman’s character thinks if Joe joins him as a partner in his business, he can still keep his daughter close to him. Hunter, who appears only in a few scenes, excels as an aggressive district attorney trying to prosecute the daughter’s killer.

But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s soulful performance as Joe Nast, a young man in the middle of an intolerable situation, that impressed me most. I couldn’t take my eyes off this former Bubble Boy. Combining pathos and charisma, Gyllenhaal pulled me into Joe’s troublesome world and kept me there during the entire movie. At the end of the film, I felt emotionally exhausted – but completely satisfied, largely due to Gyllenhaal’s heartfelt work.

Ellen Pompeo (Old School) provides strong support as Bertie, another member of the walking wounded, who fascinates Joe. Suffering the loss of someone she loved dearly, Bertie seems wary of further attachments – but finds Joe hard to resist. Because the relationship between Bertie and Joe develops so slowly, I wanted to push these two lost souls together as quickly as possible, then force them to live happily ever after.

Written and directed by Brad Silberling (City of Angels), Moonlight Mile soars above typical romantic dramas in its depiction of genuine problems faced by people who care about each other. Inspired by a real incident – the killing of television actress Rebecca Schaeffer from My Sister Sam (who was engaged to Silberling at the time of her death), this provocative film deals with substantive issues relating to love, grief, letting go, and concern for other people’s feelings. After the movie’s screening at the Taos Talking Picture Festival 2002, Sarandon said she agreed to appear in Moonlight Mile because of Silberling’s passion for the project. She made a wise decision.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "PG-13" for some sensuality and brief strong language.)

Read Betty Jo's interview with filmmaker Brad Silberling.

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